Jon Skuldt lives in Minnesota.

Poem for Art Strike

Blacklisted again,
I perch, idle,
outside the bakery window,
having been

deemed too sick
and untrustworthy
to be a secretary
in contact with the public.

The sidewalk crew, never rushed,
pours the last of it.
The cement, framed in its fittings,
will sit a day, maybe less, unretouched.

Between my face and the sun,
the newspaper, folded
and already a week old,
yields a photo, with caption:

The distinguished panel,
one arm outstretched,
indicates a canvas
syruped with enamel.

O this work.  O progress.
O praise this life of competition.
The sluice from chickens,
live or dressed

drains into the alley.
In ninety thousand cycles
the song of the disciples
blows north from Gary.

Shirtless children
stand at the hydrant
ready to start

Function Underpins the Map in Known Quantities

Having accomplished several things in a single year,
I line up another.  I crossed Michigan flat on my back,
on a mattress lofted in a van.  That was one thing,
as Iíd never been.  I could vaguely see the car behind me

if I moved my shoes apart.  Eventually I took the shoes off
entirely and someone noted that my feet were map-like
ó and that someone was me Ė which exonerated me
from looking out the window.  But it saved my energy.  There was this,

on top of eating bread soaked in egg for months, a meal a day,
while Z.A. would stumble sleepless off the curb with her family money
and her vaudeville behavior.  Both of us survived, a few blocks apart most of the time, each not really
speaking to the other.  That was something.  And Teresa,

in entirely another myth, barely holding her weight in Kent, was working split shifts in some bar
and the cook ó a hard man, and putting on muscle ó took her in back
and made her a steak.  I thought that if some year a miracle might flutter down, when I could say
that everybody else was fucked-up but I was fine, maybe Iíd point

my thumb that way.  Good sense, in its vacuum, told me east.  And when I fell out of the post office,
my face towards Division, with thirteen new dollars in my wallet, I was feeling lucky, or alive.  I was still working hard.
And a friend caught me.  He sat me down and showed me a book of one hundred cubes.  I thank, therefore,
this century, for its generous continuum, and for the torn and buckling sidewalk which held me, until I stood again.

Showing We Care About Others Or Ourselves Poem

Your love is a sidewinder missile
or whatever gets used these days
itís still hot and destructive
Something I hate about the air strikes on Serbia:
I prefer to destroy people from the inside and retain their property
Itís kept me in wardrobe for years

Come at me from above with force and precision
Put whatever you can on my lips
Try to keep me in a wardrobe for years

Oh Dear Nationalist How You Wear Thin

Today I raise a sparkler for independence.
See our many postures, set alight:
Figure in the boat,

feet planted apart,
sets the spark, bent low.
The technical splendor of nerves and fuses.

Figure with hands clamped on its ears.
The shocks kick the heart. 
Cinders streak to dust.

Independence is
choose your battles.  Eternal vigilance:
wait for the explosions.  They rocket up

into brilliant clusters. The art of physics. 
The art of art.  The art and ease
of dazzling conviction.  Itís no art

to find an ending.  Isnít it tiresome
how the angles and the speed
make themselves obvious.  And isnít it tiresome,

how artful the lies get.  Get in the process of getting.
The other figures can remain uninvented.  With each burst
the world grows slowly less elaborate.

Poem About The Dead

Lazarus to Christ: Lie down and die!

You can't crawl into coffins with the dead.
You can keen weakly.  Your lips are a split eraser
but you barely exhale.  This won't do.
You aren't much of a mechanic.
That's another minute with no air, already,
in the dumb accordion of the lungs.
Go ahead.  Press your mouth.  It marks your leaking face.  Press it against
that stitch in the plastic.  The stitch where the singing used to come from.  The dull plastic
who shook hands gently.  You'll never make a good seal
when the wires are in the way.
Too dry.  Well, you'll never do it.

You can't crawl into coffins with the dead.
There is no room for you.  The coffin is the body.
Try to get an arm inside the body.  Get your arm
to resemble an arm. A dead branch still bends
thanks to water and light, which should have been enough
but not after it's called a stick.
Can you be gentle?  Feel how light. 
It will have to be pinned down in marble.
It will have to be pinned down by the heaviest people
in the world.  It will have to be pinned by the gargantuan living,
laden with their flashy, idiosyncratic grief.
What horrible guests.  You can't be invited in. 
No matter if you argue.  Punch that host in the stomach.  See if it exhales. 
See if it sounds like your name. 
See if it sounds like they loved you.

You can't crawl into coffins with the dead.
You can live asleep.  Wine in mud,
and so you can resemble them.  A soft and pliant fraud until you stiffen. 
Such behavior.  They keep their topsoil curtains drawn,
deaf to the door and telephones.  What model life is this
to someone warm around the neck and shoulders,
still warm between the legs?  Whose palm still curls
around what presses it?  The cloth is tight around your knees.
You can lie down, dead.  You can let the living grow
in and around you.  You can prop your children up around you:
corpses end-on-end.  You can hope they will resemble you,
as you are, and having finished, as you'll have become.
Surround yourself with family and watch them disappear.
See if they can fix it.  Try screaming at them.  See if they can scold the obstinate dead
into appeasing the rigid living.

Anonymous Saga of Brilliant Loft Party

Another letter to Vladimir much love and envy.
I tuck you under my stretched-rubber sleeve.  The platform is breezeless
and between service.  You fill my wool hat.
My baggage, rectilinear, yellow clippings folded in the pants-pockets,
provides for the ants, who stumble to any shelter.

I have ducked from my life as a collected object.
I spill to the sidewalks, a stack of receipts.
Empty below the neck, I chronicle my change beside the phone box.
Conspiratorial, diffuse, are friends a spray of flowers in transit?
I buckle into frozen apartments, I leer
up the slicked escapes; I pucker and sneer
as skillfully as the absurdly wealthy, who stand
in clusters, disaffected, with their ironic toys.

Love Letter to Walking Through Airports

Airport is the diagram on the kiosk.
Paradigmatic airport: it is vaguely representative.
Airport, substitutable.  Or irrelevant and tactile.  People around me will simply disappear

if I let them.  If I never check my facts
with the superimposed world.  Row of telephones expectant
on their hooks.  Despite myself I suppose

Iíll rupture this flat and painless map.

Ballad of the Trail of Comets That Marks the Rust Belt from Above

Another nod to industry. Lise and I pass a sign outside Detroit.
At this particular time, I am gainfully employed.
Bridge to Canada, on the sign. Why donít we go,
I say and mean it. Lise met some guy last night
and they wiped his floors while George C. Scott saluted them from the living room television
with his legs locked into the conquerorís stance.  She is getting through the details.
Come on, I interrupt her. One mile. I am supposed to be
somewhere completely different. Half of Detroit ó
which we have just left ó is tooled in gold

and the other is tinder. This is no surprise
to anyone who lives near or has passed through. I am neither
and have a responsibility to return somewhere. Lise explains what he did
to her feet. Power to the people, I say to her.
One and the other lie dormant across the state
while the standing militia reinforces itself
and the facts begin to unfold, unblackened,
in a document marked on an unsprung paper trap. Bridge to Canada
the sign says. Why donít we go.

Lise is driving the car in which we are white and traveling.
We are heading due west in a late-model Japanese four-door
at a rate of seventy to eighty miles per hour.  Flight to the suburbs, due west,
occurred at a substantial fraction of this rate.  The first thing to change
is the denominator, and, believing impossibly they have nothing in common, rioters will set Detroit on fire
like they do every year.  Iíll come back, I say,
in my last personal fit of treason.  Lise is beautiful
and discontent. The world is brimming with hope and possibility.  In any case,
a single thing I have told ó or will tell ó you is the truth:

I am listening to someone with whom I used to be in love.
I live in Hombros Grandes which is a long ways from where I am.
It is two in the afternoon.
It is the other end of October and you know me personally.
Whatever you are expecting will actually return.
We have just left Detroit.

American Sabbatical

Trying to open your own heart is real gangster shit.
Brutal but lavishly decorated.  There is a beautiful lobby up the street in my world.
Rhetorically, who hasnít lain on the floor beside its neoclassical fountain, and sang?
Two thousand years of progress means nobody waits for you to dash yourself against the rocks;
the rocks get dashed against you, and you become your own fountain.
When the right face has been connected to the body
which has not been yours, nor mine, not yet,
they have drained it, that pale row,
prone but for the heads, cantaloupes.

My world happens to be yours.  By four or five a.m.,
when the families have tipped the last beer cans off the stoop,
the cats come out, a dozen every block,
lit by fake torchlight Ė that's the real sky Ė
they roll the beer cans off the sidewalk
so they can have room to hiss and stick their asses up, and yowl, and press hard against one another,
like I am waiting to do to you now with my hand,
one finger first, then three or four, then the other hand,
and the skin between, that's your vulnerable body,

vulnerable like your front door, or mine, which I want to trust,
but it takes a couple of kicks for a good lock,
a couple of kicks for a bad one.  So I spread my fingers in you
like I hold a necklace of icons.  All of them are you:
trust, love, yeah yeah I think there are symbols.
There is also a symbol for the movies, which is on the string
--it's an imaginary string, don't forget-- which you also symbolize,

strangling my delicate fingers. 
It's a delicate strangling.  Ahora.  Ahora.  Ahora.
You roll off and I recite my many names for you.
Most are tender and beautiful. 

Return To High Rise Window As If Anything Could Be Fixed

Ice and fever blow in from the lake: Good morning.  I raise a wedge of toast
ó its back half, a burned village ó  to my lips.  Today Iím engrossed

in the long string of segments before me that are probably buildings,
and endings tend to end in probabilities, and probably these endings

are only frozen ground.  Alese shows me where sheíd like an easel:
at this same window.  Possibilities abound.  
Down the lakeshore

is a museum with fabulous bathrooms.  The art itself is painful
but only for its lack of depth, and thatís no real pain at all.

Iíve been meaning to answer a question about the past,
and what it's good for; I think Iíve got an answer.  Iím focused

on the future.  It hangs, parasitic,
blinding, regressive, binding.  A distant subject:

the ruins of the lost city Muccacitta spread, the empty hand Ė
how different it had looked from high above Ulysses Park,

framed by window-washer ropes.  Opaque facades
and parapets, its columns and kinetic beasts.  Winters, steam and smokeó

Really this is all a private disaster of perspective.  Paint away.  Please represent me
with a downward stripe. 
                               Now that I have learned to bear being myself, everything is messy work

but mostly psychological.  I try to make it sexy.  I try not to breathe.  I try to imitate my successes
and pretend theyíre new.  And if you press your face and hands hard against this glass

you can bypass your reflection.  The past is a pinch.  A pinch and a measure.   Good morning;
hello, to all you gauzy specks peering out your high rise picture windows, hurtling towards failure,

built to break in the long string of segments before me that are probably buildings,
with your variegated endings and probabilities, and probably these endings

will be rewritten when you hit ground.  Imagine a world so stable:
real live people, and their little lives, all shifting around.